By Brandon Armstrong
WeWork has made some pretty big headlines, recently—from the data breach exposing sensitive information, poor management, and the CEO resigning to the sharp valuation drop, and pulling their planned IPO. A quick search online will get you caught up on all of the saucy gossip, but what’s the bottom line for your business? If you’re a business operating out of a co-working space, here are 5 cyber security lessons on what need to know to keep your data safe and secure.
Lesson 1. Minimize Your Risk
The whole story started with a data breach, and, likely, WeWork won’t be the only co-working space to run into this problem. Depending on the environment and the size, anywhere from 5 to 1000+ people can be on the WiFi at a co-working space. On public WiFI, such as coffee shops, hotels, or airports, most people are careful of what they do. But when you’re at work, network security probably isn’t something you think about.
The big realization with the WeWork breach is that a lot of companies don’t have secure enough measures in place to protect their data from shared office WiFi. In traditional situations, this lack of security measures would be like sharing your home network with everyone in your neighborhood; you don’t know who’s doing what. Luckily there are options—TSP has several clients that work in co-working locations, and our small business technical support has taken steps to protect their data.
What you do and what kind of data you’re using will influence the best solution for your needs. It’s essential to work with IT specialists or a managed IT services provider to figure out what you need and what’s best for your business. With that disclaimer covered, let’s look at some best practices.
Lesson 2. Pay for a Private Network
Often co-working environments will have an option for a segregated network (one that separates your business from everyone else). Typically these networks come with an extra charge since the network has to be configured for your needs apart from the rest of the location. A segregated network works best when paired with a dedicated office in the co-working space. With this solution, you’ll typically have a network that you connect to in your office that is completely secured and firewalled from everyone else.
You may want to set up a guest network as well if you have clients or investors at your site. A bonus would be to set up your own firewall and switches to control your system more securely. Some shared workplaces allow this, and some don’t; TSP can translate your needs to the site manager and assist with setting up that extra layer of security.
For instance, TSP has worked with CIC, one of the original co-working spaces in Boston (no, WeWork did not come up with the concept…) to implement this solution for one of our clients who deals with highly confidential data. They only charge $25/month more for the network connection that enables their firewall to have secure access to the Internet.
Lesson 3. Encrypt Your Traffic
One benefit of co-working spaces is flexibility. You can use other conference rooms, move around the office, or use other locations as your own. But moving around—either within your primary location, or at another site—means you’ll be using their network when you’re on the go. Services like Cisco Umbrella or Sophos Endpoint Protection offer options to encrypt your data as it’s transmitted from your computer. The bonus is that an encryption solution can be deployed and protect your data and network information regardless of where you are and what network you’re on.
Virtual Private Networks also encrypt your data during transmission. But beware, the use of a third-party VPN provider means that you need to trust that company too, because eventually your data is decrypted by their systems. TSP can help you navigate the many VPN solutions and even implement your own VPN so that no one can snoop on your data.
Lesson 4. Encrypt Your Computer
The benefits of encryption are not just in protecting your network traffic. If your laptop is stolen or you lose it somewhere, how secure is your data? Most computers with professional software have an option built-in to encrypt your hard drive (FileVault on Macs & BitLocker on Windows). Use it. But also make sure you have the encryption password stored somewhere safe (not on the computer itself) in case you ever get locked out. In providing IT services for small businesses, TSP also utilizes tools to track the encryption on our clients’ hardware so we can take action of a computer is disabled or goes missing—even if your password is also lost.
Lesson 5. Backup Your Data
When it comes to minimizing risk, there is no better tried and true method than backing up your data! Between my time at Apple and at TSP, I’ve worked on countless cases of lost devices, hardware failures, accidentally deleted files, cats spilling water on laptops—all the things that cause people to lose access to their computer. You need to have a strategy for getting back to work and your data. Use external hard drives, use a cloud backup (we use Crashplan, Backupify, or Backblaze), use redundant backups (more than one place), just use something, please. Back your data up. Data recovery is never fun and can be quite expensive.
WeWork and co-working spaces have been called the companies that are transforming how work is being done. We’re not quite sure that they are that revolutionary, but one thing is certain: flexible working is here to stay. That means that a business may work one year in their own leased space, then the next in a co-working space, the next in a sub-lease, and the next all working from home. Flexibility is what really defines the new era of work.
But when moving around, make sure that you take our tips for being smart about reducing your risks. In your own location or in a co-working space, contact TSP to do a free tech audit, and we can work with you to figure out what’s best for the security of your business.